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PartyPoker has made big changes recently, especially in the live tournament realm. The size and scope of live poker offerings is increasing regularly with John Duthie at the helm, and the roster of sponsored team pros continues to grow. And within that expansion is a specific focus on Russia.

The success of the PartyPoker Million in Sochi was great enough to inspire another stop later this year, but the Russian investment is no clearer than in the signing of Anatoly Filatov to Team PartyPoker. An exciting young pro in his own right, his passion for poker is inspiring, and the proud native of Moscow has a deep love of his home country. And PartyPoker hopes all of that enthusiasm is contagious.

Who Loves it More?

Filatov is a competitor, a poker pro who plays for the win. But more than that, he truly loves the game. It is evident in his social media posts and enthusiasm for every project in which he becomes involved.

In early 2016, Filatov was chosen by Alex Dreyfus to manage the Russian team for the inaugural Global Poker League. He recruited an all-Russian team called the Wolverines, all of whom played fearlessly throughout the first season of the league. Filatov’s excitement was always infectious for his team and poker fans in general, whether playing online or in the Cube in Las Vegas. He was so proud of his Wolverines that he ordered a custom phone case displaying the name.

It is no surprise that PartyPoker was watching that enthusiasm, especially when Filatov played at the recent Millions tournament stop in Sochi. And the announcement came soon after that Filatov became the latest addition to Team PartyPoker as a sponsored pro.

Back to Sochi

PartyPoker was the first online poker operator to bring its action to the newly-opened Sochi Casino and Resort in Russia. Despite the country’s unstable relationship with online gaming as the laws continue to evolve and change, Russia wanted Sochi to become a premier gambling destination to accompany the mountain resort offerings. PartyPoker took a chance and found success there.

The PartyPoker LIVE events recently wrapped in Sochi with a $1K buy-in Main Event that guaranteed a $1 million prize pool. The tournament had 1,170 entries in total, and the winner – Dmitry Chop of Ukraine – took home $225K for his victory.

To build upon that success, PartyPoker announced another visit to Sochi. With the crew barely on their way out of the Russian resort town, another PartyPoker MILLIONS Russia was revealed and scheduled for September 1-11. And an energized company also upped the ante, this time offering a $5 million guarantee for the next event, with $1 million of that promised to the winner alone. PartyPoker LIVE President Duthie noted, “After the hugely successful first event in Sochi, PartyPoker LIVE will be coming back! This event was received so well by the Russian community, it’s clear there is an appetite for poker in this region.”

No Politics in Poker

The increased interest in the Russian poker community comes at a time when international relations suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not the most well-liked leader in the world. Tensions between Russia and numerous other countries, including the United States, are continually rising, but poker plays on nonetheless.

And despite the uncertain state of online poker in Russia amidst discussions of new proposals to outlaw non-Russian online gaming sites, the current ambiguity of the law doesn’t seem to be intimidating any of the online poker sites. PartyPoker is not the only one continuing services to Russian players as per usual, nor the only one making the most of Sochi as a live tournament destination.

Until and unless something changes, it looks like Sochi is clearly the new place to be for live poker. And PartyPoker will be there twice this year, with Filatov as its proud ambassador.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.